We sent our roving reporter to the Amsterdam Dance Event and he made it back full of renewed enthusiasm for losing it on the dance floor, bless him.
Sunday morning at the end of ADE2017, and Kenny Larkin is just digging into his set at the Sugar Factory, to the clear delight of the dancers who’d been there for several hours already. Mr Larkin, along with fellow Detroiters Stacey Pullen, Carl Craig, Moody Mann and Kev Saunderson put on possibly ADE2017’s best party, stretching out long into Sunday afternoon, keeping some of their punters on the floor for more than 12 hours. ‘Best’ party is a relative term though, as a standard human can only make it to so many events per night, and at ADE, there are a lot of parties. Inevitably there may have been an even better party happening simultaneously that I didn’t know about – but it’s like that old philosophical conundrum – if a DJ plays a tune and no one hears it, did it really happen? Or does it mean he needs to fix his Facebook Live feed? Or is he Ten Walls and no one likes him anymore? Or if a DJ plays a tune and no one hears it, was it me doing the warm-up?
Remember The Good Times
As someone who spends most of the year searching for things in dance music to be a smart arse about (remember that joke I made about dropping the bass when Richie Hawtin pushed his monitor onto his fan, REMEMBER? THAT WAS GREAT WASN’T IT. Ah, those heady days. Good times), ADE is a chance for me to go to loads of clubs and hear mucho excellente musica. I return tired but firmly reminded of how utterly brilliant going to the disco is, a feeling of positivity that I can sometimes stretch out until Christmas and even beyond. Although a spring and summer of bitterness and regret await me with all the inevitability of Jeremy Underground‘s need for a sauna, soon ADE rolls back into view again and we repeat the whole cycle. Circle of life innit.
This year, apparently I missed the meeting and so didn’t realise that you are now required to take photos of your boarding pass, the first ADE venue you see and some canals, and then hashtag them #AmsterdamGo, #AllSystemsGo, #ADEblessed&humbledFukYeh and such. No matter, I’m something of a traditionalist in these matters and chose to write my musings longhand in a little notebook, sitting in a charming water-side coffee shop, until the brownies kicked in whereupon I ate the notebook, page by paranoid page, and went about my day.
First, a little local colour: central Amsterdam is delightful, everyone rides bicycles, and apparently it’s the law to text or browse the web whilst riding. Interestingly, there isn’t one cool bike in Amsterdam, no lightweight carbon mountain bikes, no sleek racers, everyone rides the kind of bikes that old ladies in the UK used to ride in the 1950s. The roads, bike lanes and pavements all appear very similar to the newcomer, the traffic drives on the other side to the UK so I’d recommend that you spend all your journeys using my ADE survival tip #1: constantly move your head from side to side as though continually firmly saying no to ensure you don’t get hit by anything. Also, you don’t explode if you stand on a tram line, I checked.
Amsterdam’s population is around 900,000 and around 400,000 ADE punters came to the city this year, so that’s like, nearly another half a city’s worth of people. Some of the boozers did feel a little cramped, and some of the venues were proper rammo, but you know, who wants to go to a half-empty club? That’s right, no one.
Walking alongside the canals the smell of herb is rarely far. You can buy it from ridiculous tourist hubs like the Bulldog Cafe if you want, or if you prefer the process stripped of its student trappings then you can just pick it up from a high street retail outlet that looks just like a car hire place, except they’re selling herb. The natives are friendly, loads of them speak English and even those who don’t will try it out, and they way they pronounce ‘Spotify’ is delightful. Also, if you want to log in to anything on a computer, you have to click ‘inloggen’ which I think you’ll agree is ace. On the downside, I was expecting way more tulips, windmills and clogs, items I saw precisely none of during my stay and which will be the main subject of a substantial letter I’ll be sending to the Dutch government.
ADE is a chance to go to meetings, but not shit meeting with no biscuits where you have to talk about your ‘problematic attitude’ or your ‘chronic lateness’, proper good meetings where everyone’s really positive about the progress we’re going to make going forward and everyone has colds and keep sniffing. And the biscuits are the bomb. Then there’s seminars and talks and I don’t care if you think they sound boring, you sound boring, I was well interested in loads of it and took notes and shit and then wrote some of it up into articles and got paid for them so who’s boring now eh. And at ADE you can listen to Kevin Saunderson tell you what it’s like being him and DJing and then later in the week you can listen to him DJ and it all links up in a wonderful dance music chain of glistening delights.
At ADE you’re encouraged to meet up with people who work in the same city as you, they might even work in the same building, or you can even arrange to meet your own business colleagues who sit next to you at work. Then you get a coffee together in the conference area, everyone gets out their laptops and after introductions (if I had a Euro for every time I heard “This is Hans from our Berlin office” I’d have like, 3 or 4 Euros), negotiations begin, sweaty palms are clasped and there’s an air of people getting shit done. Hans, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear, was generally quietly pleased with how negotiations progressed.
The Rise of The Machines
Events like ADE always have loads of new studio gear you can check out and at ADE, this largely happens in the Electro-Playgroundronica Modal Hub Space. I tried out that new Arturia MatrixBrute synth, it’s got a digital matrix but it’s totally analog, yeah I know right, brilliant. To translate, it’s got almost-but-not-quite too many buttons and sounds totally peng, yo. Pioneer had a room full of their gear including their new DJ1000 which is quite the banging piece of kit. So I’m trying it out and I look up from the over-complicated effects strewn mix I had just perfectly executed and realise that all the boxes with shiny lights had distracted me from the fact that DJ Sneak was playing a set on a stage at the other end of the room. Behind me were a row of seats where a bunch of people were languidly watching him DJ whilst idly scrolling on their phones. Meanwhile, two people were in different corners of the room dancing – and they’re going hard like it’s 2 am and they’ve just come up on the first half of their double drop. It was a strange tableau, made all the stranger by the fact that I hadn’t noticed for ages that it was happening. And then it struck me, that the whole scene was a perfect visual metaphor for all the ills of the current club scene: most of the audience are overentitled and bored, those that are into it have peaked way too early, all while a big-name DJ is going through the motions, like a beast of burden unquestioningly carrying its load.
Yet as I scrabbled for my phone, intending to capture and then post the image, along with a suitably superior caption and then wait for the likes to roll in, I realised that maybe it wasn’t a perfect visual metaphor. Or more precisely. I realised that if there is a set of ‘ills of the current club scene’, one of them is probably tired and emotional middle-aged former DJs over-thinking a perfectly pleasant warm afternoon in the Pioneer DJ room at ADE.
And with that, I was gone, off to test out my newly invented ADE hangover cure (ADE survival tip #2): do 10 push-ups, drink 50 mcg of fentanyl dissolved in a glass of genièvre, put some wet clogs on & go to bed – you’re welcome – and after a brief disco-nap of around 5 hours, I put on my monochrome asymmetrical t shirt and my tech house cloak and headed out into the night.
Aside from the aforementioned Detroit-focused shenanigans, there were lots of other stellar dancefloor moments – at Kerri Chandler’s frankly suberb all-night-athon we met someone who had ALREADY been up for three days and it was only Wednesday evening. We awarded her an imaginary medal which she wore proudly as she scurried back to the dancefloor. There was a three-day rave in a bookshop basement. Rodhad and the Dystopian crew took us to the dark side of techno and we liked it. Giles Peterson DJed in a record shop. We met an estimated 90% of the world’s house music DJs at the Traxsource event. We went to a daytime Awakenings rave with Nicole Moudaber and Danny Tenaglia playing in a converted gasometer, and we think we caught Troxler and Villalobos at the Warehouse Elementenstraat, but sometimes it was hard to tell who was playing to be honest, you know what nightclubs are like, dark, disorientating, full of waves of orgone energy pulsating straight from the audiences’ collective pineal gland amirite?
Also, I saw a mouse, where, there on the stair, where on the stair, right there. I actually did though, he ate some of my bread in my Air B’n’B and then shat on the counter. Which to be honest is marginally better behaviour than some of my mates when they stay over so no dramas there. Then it was all over and so I sadly packed away my Bob Marley T-shirt and my I Heart Amsterdam cap and headed back to rubbish England where things aren’t as good as when it’s ADE and you’re at ADE.